The great American composer Marvin Hamlisch died. Only 1 of 11 people to achieve winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. And out of that group, only 1 of 2 to also win a Pulitzer Prize. Also, 2 Golden Globes. Perhaps his most famous work is the 1975 Broadway smash A Chorus Line. And that's how I was introduced to his music. While he obviously accomplished so much more, ACL is the work that affected me the most over the years.
As a youth in Florida, I always performed. Acting, singing and dancing with dreams of moving to NYC and performing on Broadway. I first heard the music from ACL when I was in my late teens. I think right before the movie adaptation came out in 1985. When the movie came out, I was obsessed with it. Especially the song, "I Can Do That". I even choreographed my own tap number while singing the song for various variety shows/fundraisers. And, embarrassingly did it for my very first ever NYC audition.
I got sent by an acting teacher to this musical audition. Having never auditioned in NYC, I wasn't sure of what to do. I knew I needed a headshot/resume and sheet music for my song. Great. I had all of that. I came in and said, "I'll be doing 'I Can Do That' from A Chorus Line". The casting table smiled and let me go. As I started singing AND dancing, I remember a puzzled look coming across their faces. When I did the big finish, the director paused and said, "Well, obviously you're a very good dancer. Thanks."
I never got a callback. My acting teacher, who knew the director, had talked to him. He kindly said that I was good but I should not sing AND dance at the same time. I should wait to be asked to come back for the dance auditions. Lesson learned!
That certainly stuck with me over the years. And while I never did that song again at auditions, I definitely remembered it and it toughened me up for the whole NYC audition scene. Years later, I would sing the small cut of "Who Am I Anyway" from ACL for a ballad and that often got me a callback. Every actor I know in every audition went through what the lyrics said in it. "Who am I anyway? Am I my resume? That is a picture of a person I don't know. What does he want from me? What should I try to be? So many faces all around and here we go. I need this job. Oh god...I need...this show."
A Chorus Line was always one of those shows that I really wanted to do but just never got hired the few times I did audition for a production. It never stopped my love for it. Another song from the show that really struck a chord with me was "Nothing". Diana Morales sings about how she had a really mean acting instructor named Mr. Carp that belittled her since she wasn't quite getting what he taught. She felt "nothing" when she tried to act, students and the teacher called her "nothing", etc. So she realized the class was "nothing" to her and moved on to another class. The last few lines were what really hit me. "6 months later, I heard that Carp had died. And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul and cried. Cuz I felt...nothing." Whoa. As a teen, it really hit me. I had never heard anyone openly admit that about someone dying before and I know I had probably felt it at some point in my life.
That certainly isn't the case with Hamlisch's passing. While I gave up the acting biz years ago, I'll always remember the ACL moments in my life. My first audition. My first callback. My first dance class. My first vocal lesson. My first NYC show. My first national tour. My first album recording. And for a short time, making some big acting and musical achievements that were so much more inspired by seeing/hearing A Chorus Line all those years ago. Thanks for the music, Marvin.